Guest blogger, Kim Divelbiss, Minister to Children…
Another shooting makes the papers. Is the shooter a white cop, a member of ISIS, or a teenager? Does it really matter? Someone still died. Regardless of the players, the motive is the same…fear and hate. We can analyze various religions, ethnic differences, parenting styles, education and socio economic issues, but does that help? More importantly, as proclaimed Jesus followers, does it align with His example? My argument is no. When we judge, stereotype, and avoid those different than us, we go directly against God’s teachings.
I love the book of James. What a convenient little manual to walking in the way of Jesus. In chapter 2, James spells out the expectations regarding treatment of our fellow human and the sin in ranking people:
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole laws and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery, also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:1-13, NIV
As I read this passage, I fall back on what I know the best, parenting, particularly special needs parenting. Half the battle in parenting is staying ahead of the game and warding off tantrums, fall aparts, freak outs, or whatever your household calls them. If we viewed violence, killings, and discrimination as childish freak outs could we begin to prevent them? If, as Jesus followers, we nurtured, mentored, loved, even just paid attention to the poor, the struggling, the angry, the hurt, and the broken could we make a difference? After all, who of us has not been in an ugly place at least once in our life? What if we looked past the dress, the hygiene, the language, and the color of skin and saw people as those whom God loves? What if we even ministered to the haters, modeling kindness to those with a hardened heart?
The violence in our world is a snowball quickly rolling downhill, gathering content and speed. Should it be possible to stop that snowball, it is still going to take a long time to melt. So what can we do as individuals, as the church, as ambassadors for Jesus? Think small. You heard me correctly, I said think small to combating a huge problem. Step out of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation in the grocery store line with someone you wouldn’t otherwise acknowledge. Pick up $5.00 of clearance school supplies at Target and drop them off to an underprivileged school. Mentor a child that has parents struggling to appropriately parent. Better yet, mentor that child’s parents. Volunteer your time to tutor a child. Set an example. Don’t refer to a person by the color of their skin, their disability, the uniform they wear, or the neighborhood in which they reside. Ask questions. We often fear what we don’t understand. Teach your children. Teach them love and kindness. Teach them to stand up against bullying. Teach them that all of God’s children have gifts. Teach them that confidence is not the same as abusing power or looking down on others. Most importantly we can pray, we can listen, we can forgive, and we can acknowledge that God loves all of His people.